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Does Half-day Preschool Really Make a Difference?

Even though parents want to freeze time, childhood flies by. Your child may be in the dreaded “terrible twos” stage and it might seem like it will schooling is light years away, but this in fact is prime time to consider preschool and day care options. There are many factors to be considered and they include but are certainly not limited to the type of education, public, private, or Montessori, as well as selecting the actual school they will attend. As there are so many factors to consider, many parents do not think of the full or half-day preschool attendance question until it is in front of them. According to basic principles of early childhood development education, preschool is an integral time for children to learn proper socialization. There is significant early childhood development research dedicated to the question of full or half-day preschool. The information below can be highly beneficial in your decision making process.


Many researchers, scholars, and educators argue that a child can begin building a solid social and educational foundation by attending a half-day preschool program. Children in half-day preschool programs are introduced to proper ways of socially interacting with their peers as well as gain exposure in appropriate behaviors for a classroom. Children enrolled in half-day preschool programs gain invaluable educational and social experience, while slowly introduced to the idea of attending school for a full day. Half-day preschool programs make the transition from preschool to kindergarten much easier. Many neurological researchers believe that the attention span and learning capacity of a 3-year old child is better suited for attending half–day preschool.


One of the largest disadvantages of half-day preschool programs to consider is the disruption that a child will experience as they leave their classroom half way through the day. This is a factor to be considered especially by parents who will send their children to a preschool program that runs the full day, but plan on sending them only for a half-day. From a socio-educational stand point the child may miss out on many activities and opportunities to interact with their teachers and other students, if taken out of the classroom earlier than other students. Your child’s complete classroom experience might contain a gap between their daily experience and one of your child’s peers who remained in the program for the entire day. Many children who remain in preschool program’s for the entire school day receive a more whole and complete social and educational experience.

The Decision:

The choice of sending your child to a full or half-day of preschool is very personal. While it is important to take into consideration many of the advantages and disadvantages listed above, the final choice must also reflect the personality of the child as well as the lifestyle of the family that the child comes from, as well as the needs of the parents. It is important to keep in mind that whatever route you select there is going to be a large adjustment period for your child and yourself. Keep in mind that fatigue, crankiness, and difficulty separating from the family are all normal reactions to beginning formal schooling. Some children adjust smoothly while others struggle. There is no normal reaction and each child should be parented as an individual.

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Atlanta day care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of day care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.


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  • My shy son started pre-k this year in a 1/2 day program; I saw the most amazing changes in him in just 2 weeks before we transferred him to a full day program (we were on waitlist). I agree, however, that it is a very personal decision as all children are different.

  • Uncle Ant

    Thank you for your thoughtful insights, and thank you to Cute Monster for posting the piece. It is helpful to me both as an educator and dad.

  • MSH

    Thank you for the feature post. I have struggled with this decision: half-day vs full-day vs stay with Grandparents for the day without any school until Kindergarten (I work full time). Do parents tend to enroll their children in half day because, as you mentioned, the adjustment for the parents? For me, I know it is more of an emotional adjustment rather than a physical adjustment for pick-up & drop-off, etc. Can I handle my toddler attending full time program instead of having fun and playing at the park, etc when he has the next 18 years to attend full time education programs. That is partly my concern which program directors advised ‘I need to get over’.

  • If the child enjoys staying in school, I think it is best if parents will let them stay in a full-day school. But for those whose attention span are shorter, usually the younger ones, the half-day classes are more suitable.

  • I think letting a toddler or pre-schooler stay longer than three to four hours in school a day would send them into to tantrums. Their attention span is not that developed yet. It would only be a waste of time and resources if they’ll be in whole-day classes.

  • Thank you for sharing this post. My daughter is 15 months old, and while it seems far away for me, I’ve already started to think about preschool options. I want to ensure that my daughter is provided with the best opportunities that I can give to her. This definitely gives me another perspective to consider on full vs. half day preschool

    • Anonymous

      If there’s one truth I’ve learned from my own experience, it’s that you can never start planning too soon.  Life can be a busy endeavor and as such, time flies.  At 15 months old, preschool’s really just a few seasons away for your daughter.  Good luck with whatever you choose! 🙂

  • Patti

    I think that if you want your child to only go for half days, then you should find a preschool that runs on a half-day schedule, so that your child gets the full social and educational experience for the day.

    • cutemonster

      True. Continuity matters especially to preschool aged children.

  • Laurena

    My child doesn’t like the preschool she’s in on the first year so I looked for quality preschool for my child to transfer. SO happened that my sister came by and recommends friday child. Now, my child doesn’t want to have school break anymore.

    • cutemonster

      Much like an adult who loves their career, a child who enjoys school all of sudden doesn’t think of it as work but fun.